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Following a fatal outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at St Christopher’s Hospice, which provides end-of-life care in South London, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) has emphasised the importance of proper controls in public buildings, with legionella training essential for responsible parties.
The Hospice has been named as a source of Legionnaire’s disease following the death of an elderly man in 2012, and the illness of an orderly worker who contracted the disease while carrying out her duties – luckily she made a full recovery.
Legionnaires’ disease is of particular risk to people with pre-existing health conditions, or those with a weakened immune system, such as the elderly, so preventing it in hospitals, nursing homes and public buildings in general, is extremely important.
Public buildings often have large and complex HVAC systems and special care must be taken to prevent bacteria from developing. This begins with how a water system is designed and once in operation, proper maintenance is essential. Training for building managers and those on the front line of water treatment will ensure the right understanding so conditions are kept unfavourable for the bacteria – prevention is better than cure.
The case at St Christopher’s demonstrates this need for prevention. HSE inspector Matt Raine, said the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease for the patients and employees working at the Hospice was “entirely foreseeable”:
“The risks of Legionella are well known in the healthcare industry. St Christopher’s Hospice had implemented some measures in an attempt to control Legionella. However, it failed to appoint a competent person to manage the risk of Legionella in the hospice’s hot and cold water system. The failures in the management of Legionella led to conditions in the hot and cold water system that favoured the proliferation of Legionellae.”
Graeme Dryden, head of technical at APHC, added: “This case is another tragic example of a death that in all likelihood could have been prevented simply through the appointment of a competent person to manage Legionella risk in a public building.”
To help those responsible for Legionella prevention we deliver a range of legionella training courses to provide awareness of the bacteria and its causes, in accordance with the requirements of ACoP L8. Training can be tailored to a business, with courses for Facilities Managers, Building/Maintenance Engineers and on specific applications, such as cooling towers.
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